tv William Hyland George Mason CSPAN October 11, 2019 5:34am-6:28am EDT
>> good afternoon here at the national archives the archivist of the united states it's a pleasure to have you with us or joining us through facebook or youtube channels into the c-span audience. we like to tell you about a few other programs coming up next month on tuesday septembe september 10th sidney blumenthal will talk about the recently released volume about abraham lincoln
1856 and at seven the associate justice gorsuch will tell us about his new book a republic if you can keep it with the importance of civic education and discourse and mutual respect. check out the website to get e-mail updates you will find other information to other archives and activities another way is to become a member of the national archives foundation and check out their website to learn more about the organization. those murals commemorate two founding documents of the nation of the declaration of independence and the central
group represents those who play key roles in the creation of that document along with george washington and james madison and franklin is george mason one of the five most frequent speakers at the constitutional convention. at the conclusion september 1789 he did not sign the document. over the lack of individual rights but the creation of the third charter of the bill of rights in the rotunda. today we look forward to hear about george mason's formation from his biographer. a native of virginia for a widely praised historical biographies including a defense of thomas jefferson name for the literary award and biography of famed historian and martha jefferson
an intimate life with nearly 30 years of a high profile trial experience and teaches an undergraduate course of political science. and those at the national archives and colonial williamsburg foundation serving on the board of directors of the thomas jefferson heritage society. [applause] to make thank you to the archives for inviting me back. this is my third time back
here. and this is my business venture it with that closeness of history when i come back here. it gives me chills to know that one of the most important documents in history are within 200 feet with the declaration of independence and the constitution of the united states and bill of rights. i feel close to history when i come here. want to thank you again i am a lawyer by practice even though george mason was not a lawyer he had a wealth of legal knowledge. but he did not go to law school like jefferson or
madison but this is the story i want to tell about a lawyer of a priest and a little boy. they were on a small plane and writing together they developed engine trouble. the pilot said we are having trouble everyone will have to buy - - bail out gaba parachute and jumped out. he grabbed the first parachute and said i'm a doctor. i save lives so i must live in jumps out. the lawyers say the most important people in the world so i must live in grabs a parachute and jumps out. the priest looked at the little boy there was only one left and said my son i have lived a long and prosperous life you have your whole life ahead of you.
take the last parachute and take off. the little boy turned to the priest and said no worries , the smartest man in the world just took off with my backpack. [laughter] so let's talk about george mason. . . . . thomas jefferson was a genius both professionally and george mason was a near genius. america was woven together on the three pieces of paper, the
declaration of independence, the constitution and the bill of rights. george mason had a hand in formulating and writing the blueprints for all three documents. in 1770, mason emerged as a revolutionary and left a footprint as one of the ablest constitutionalists of all time and historian opinion may send became acknowledged as the premier republican theorist even though he never attended college or law school but was self-taught in his ow uncle's 10 volume library in virginia. the true legacy was the creation of the american experiment and the nation's capacity to create the use and fear and some of the keen writing is an opposing
accomplishment yet in each instance, the individual work was absorbed by the political coalition. anonymity is a byproduct of the character in his historical work and also became a matter of preference. his advice was to pay for the happiness and independence to the troubled public business that was an advice that he followed all his life. efforts of his colleagues were met with persistent refusal on his part yet the detailed hypnotized many elected audiences. as one scholar concluded, george mason was a thinker and advisor rather than a publicist.
i've tried to gather anecdotal accounts of a way to bring to life. the resulting portrait will offer a fresh and surprising interpretation even to those in the literature of the revolutionary period. leaving one with the inevitable conclusion george mason deserves careful and renewed focus is cae tended to lack the multi-volume
biographies that admonished the other founders and in my view hasn't been accorded the same that is due him. every fact bearing upon the character and services whose visionary mental gift helped create a model form of government should receive a greeting from the public and those that are interested in the origins of individual freedom. mason grasped the conception of true liberty with the authority of the citizens to control the government yet the great levers are not as widely known or established in the public mind as some of the other founders. he hashed out blueprints for the declaration of independence pitch was his virginia declaration of rights and was said by one historian to have
more wisdom and concentration of thought and one sentence then the writing on the subject. pretty powerful words. the nation was responsible for the famous words in the final version of jefferson's eloquent declaration of independence. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were mason's own words returned a month before jefferson penned his eloquent version of the ends. he added the words to the constitution giving congress the power to declare, not make war. he wrote the famous words high crimes and misdemeanors in the
impeachment clause. most people don't know that. along with madison, mason also wrote major portions of the oath of office at the presidency when sworn in today. given the length and breadth of the political fightings and influence this name should be more recognizable in the public domain and in the same context with thomas jefferson, james madison and alexander hamilton. and never wavered on the cherished convictions. individual rights and liberty over the governmental power. although they changed their views in the political climate
unfortunately history has come find me send to the second tier of historical significance. the goal isn't to take the recognition away from jefferson or madison or hamilton, but to a sign more credit to mason. in the originality of the settlement for from any particular and previous it was intended to be an expression of the american mind. in effect, the virginia declaration of rights emerged as the brilliant and eloquent blueprints is not a first draft
of the declaration of independence. the personality played a notable part in so many fields of intellectual thought including the government of law and free exercise of religion, agriculture, architecture and philosophy. he was among the american authors of rights and independence it wasn't progressed swiftly and towards the colonies they met with a
resolution no less express than the forceful language. heaven hath given us to present our becoming its slaves. it became the emotional appeal and a bigger of words all is at stake he wrote to washington and the little conveniences and comforts of life set in competition with our liberty ought to be rejected out of
sighupside inhis country, virgiy the slow passage of time revealed the full significance of his proposed coming yet he didn't rest of the words written or the ideas circulated. he was a builder have to send her an architect of the american bill of rights which one scholar called arguably the most creative and consequential act of political leadership. the declaration of rights affirmed our modern fundamental freedoms. the right to free press and not to self incriminate you. these were all his words written 12 years before the constitution was written. they became the blueprint for
the first amendments known as our bill of rights. it was mason, not jefferson or madison, not hamilton who wrote the first version of the second amendment right to bear arms, and i found back to the amazing. these were his famous words, quote, 12 years before the constitution was even written a well regulated militia composed of the body of the people trained to arms. his wife died at the age of 39. mason loved and adored his wife and their 12 children and have 25 grandchildren. he also loved his books, estate,
good wine, architecture, horseback riding, the commonwealth of virginia and the latest in forming ideas. the home he built he discovered the pleasures of scholarly pursuit and desolated with the family bustle that proved to be the desirable tonic. a devoted family man and unlike some other founders that we know there was never a hint or suspicion involving his personal life, indeed it is impossible to fully understand the intensity for liberty, sacrificing virtue, words that have explicit meaning in the 18th century apart from his family. examination of surviving letters and documents revealed a kerry
husband and building father. his son's recollection gives us an additional window into the private life of mason. he never ceased to pray for the companionship of the superior mind and prized good manners. although born privileged, he opposed all the trappings of an aristocratic society. he believed in america and americans. liberty was his chief concern. individual freedom was his chief concern. the freedom of the spirit, the freedom of the mind. mason although he did not attend college was a cultivated gentleman. he did not attend college or law school like i said with jefferson or madison. mason emerged as a lifelong advocate of education for all in
proportion to their merit. to call him of the enlightenment is the best way to sum up his thoughts. the political strength lay in his many friendships among the leaders of all shades of political figure. vigor. one of his best friends was of course george washington and in fact they had a tremendous falling out after mason refused to sign the constitution and that ended their 30 year friendship. at times he may have seen the sensitivities to criticism recognized by some as a character flaw of his colleagues also recognized him as a devoted family man and loyal friend. assets in any private circle.
his industry couldn't be questioned though he didn't become a soldier during the war due to age and health, he was recognized as a man of capacity and courage. it seemed impossible to be familiar to anyone outside of his immediate family. mason concentrated his attention on his family, not on prosperi prosperity. his personal papers are not voluminous compared to the official papers of jefferson, washington and madison. the definitive edition of the paper's run a comparatively scanned three volumes. the day version derives from both politics and family considerations. both george mason and patrick henry kurt hale the political career after the constitutional convention in 1787 and the
virginia ratifying convention in 1788, so the papers than the first three presidents. in 1820, his grandson, george mason the fifth, sixth began to correspond with men who knew his grandfather including james madison. he sympathized with the struggle together the papers and he said and wrote of the achievements, quote, that highly distinguished as he was, the accounts are scanned then many of their contemporaries. this is not in my view a historically accurate picture of a. his generosity wasn't matched
when it came to his family, solicited to his beloved mother while she was still alive as well to his younger brother and sister. he called the fate of the arts, sciences and agriculture. with the objection to the constitution, mason believes in the fundamental goodness of li life. they have revealed his intricate character those that have commented on his wife have captioned him as a reluctant statesman. a gentleman revolutionary or the man who did not sign the constitution and he may be all of these things.
but the political contributions that span his entire adult life it discloses his talent and persistence as a writer and performer and a legislature and representative and a militia officer and local church, trustee for the town of alexandria and a treasurer of the land of speculation company. as the dissenting delegate to the constitution as it was called in 1787 in philadelphia. he was one of three men who didn't sign the constitution with jerry and edmund randolph.
they sanctioned human slavery for the next 20 years. the constitution had a compromise for the importation of slaves for another 20 years and he objected to that vigorously but the main objection was the omission of the bill of rights. there was no bill of rights for the people and that is the fundamental reason he did not sign the constitution. the first six words of his now famous objection to the constitution he wrote were heard in every town and every village. there is no declaration of rights. he carried his struggle and to see the efforts crowned with congressional victory the monumental bill of rights.
although professional historians are familiar it seems that his renowned, his name has brown and public obscurity. a remote man respected by revolutionary scholars then to be known by the general public. the perception that predates history it is a broad statute to washington, d.c.. at his own time and place the contemporary is grasped with
superlatives as any man i've ever heard or seen speak. the greatest statesmen that i ever knew how much jefferson complemented his mind as great and powerful. philip, the florentine possession and matt mason in williamsburg and said in my opinion mason is not known well good enough for me is one of those talented man who caused nature a great effort to produce. as one of the giants writing that, quote, mason is one of the strong very rar rare intellectst
are created only by a special effort of nature like that of a machiavellian or galileo. most people know little of his private life and family life. it recently attracted a great deal of attention. my book examines george mason by telling his personal as well as his political journey with the 18th century world. it also touches on the significant contributions to the political lives and liberty. mason became a leading virginian before, during and after the american revolution. in the era of political revolution what i hope to establish is the case for the
elevated placing him among the most famous of american founders for both civil rights and freedom of religion. james madison gets credit for the bill of rights. whereas he initially imposed the concept integrated to support such a document only as a last resort. by contrast he has been brushed aside as an opponent of the constitution. he was a major intellectual contributor to the creation. no one contributed more to the actual document handed george mason. she deserves to be considered one of the fathers of the national government. indeed our greatest political documents the declaration of independence, the bill of rights
to the constitution all form a series of circles leading back to george mason. in my view mason should emerge as one of the preeminent literary architects of the american revolution. most americans should read his declaration of rights and his later virginia constitution as a part of the common stock of political and journalistic discourse. mason had the sharp mind of jefferson, the determination of washington, the literary skills of medicine, and the personality and grumpy temperament of john adams. a man seemingly lost in the general public on his life is in the most tangled political period in u.s. history. why then is mason moss among the sacred gallery of the same?
it is lamentable that most americans do not know mason as well as they should especially when we reflect on who he was and what he achieved. virginia, devoted husband and father of 12, 25 grandchildren, farmer, philosopher, botanist, amateur musician, fluent in two languages, architect of the declaration of independence and the bill of rights and one of the strongest proponents in america of religious liberty and history. losers received little credit from history. most historical impressions depict him as a grumpy old patriot who lost his political arguments in philadelphia then took his pen and quill & home and that is why he refused to sign the constitution for his own reasons, some would argue.
i hope to give a renewed look at the character, life and accomplishments. he's shown to be in my book to be a compassionate, sensitive boy that's matured into an accomplished statesmen come devoted husband and father. jefferson never made a secret of the fact that he revered george mason. they called him the wisest man of his generation. jefferson's famed biographer agrees summarizing his contradictions to the revolution when he said, quote, mason charter of the rights of human beings much more fully than jefferson did in the compressed paragraph in the more famous document referring to declaration of rights. if the contemporary impact of the declaration, he went on to
say there could be no possible question. more than any other single american. did you hear that, more than any other single american, george mason may be regarded as the herald of the new era. quite simply, mason developed into a private man of renaissance interest of havana abiding conviction deep within him. the faith of individual liberty, individual freedom is paramount to governmental power. he made individual freedom was a national rights, individual liberty was a natural right. he wrote in his virginia declaration of rights, quote, all power is vested in and consequentially derived from the people that the government is, ought to be instituted for the
common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or community. the oratory and the literary skills helped propel the colonies towards independence. he drafted some of the most creative and consequential political texts and revolutionary history, yet history has anointed others with same while mason has languished in relative obscurity. i hope this separating from the contemporary will be abundantly clear at the end of my biography. it is sad that biography ends with death. however, as did most great statesman, mason thought of the next generation. had he lived longer, perhaps he
could have found a viable solution for the next generation to end slavery, an institution that he condemned in the most stringent of terms, and yet he never freed his own. i hope to have presented mason so the reader can feel the patriot, the father, the husband, the farmer, the scholar. no doubt he seemed to know intimately and still is but it must've seemed a privilege to know him then as it does now. i also got my biography will invite the reader to define patriotism as mason did in his time in his broadest sense while appreciating the need as well as the necessity of political debate in a free society. as one historian eloquently concluded, quote, and historic
evaluations, actions speak louder than words. emulation rather than rhetorical evaluation by men and women of wisdom and virtue is the better test. >> masons declaration should be considered a monumental and important text he lived one of the most eventful and colorful inconsequential lives of all time.
from beyond this earth's lasting principle shield mankind from the lash of tyrants. as eloquently expressed by one scholar his final legacies suggest political genius those who carry the torch of freedom are soon forgotten perhaps to be rediscovered centuries later. his words and deeds in - - have a legacy on individual liberties and constitutional government. which in my view will have few equals. thank you very much. [applause] and i will be glad to take any
questions i thank you just have to go to the podium. >> i was struck when you quoted masons draft of the second amendment and as it became the second amendment and as i heard you say that"that it didn't appear there was an individual right to bear arms. is that a correct interpretatio interpretation? >> that was his original words but he believed in individual the right of the individuals to bear arms. masons major goal and objection to the constitution was that he was afraid of another george womack three that the government would turn into a tyranny.
so he believed in individual rights and liberty that the individual had the right to arm them even though he did not put that in the actual document. thanks for the question. >> with the very last phrase that you just said rings in my ears right now to shield mankind from the lash of tyrants. how do you think mason might view the development and integration of artificial intelligence into our society? would he view that inevitability is a potential threat to individual human rights?
>> i have no idea. [laughter] that's a great subject. even though he was near a genius to jefferson was a genius i don't think they thought that far in advance quite frankly but going back his main call was for individual rights in the ready was against anything of the government intruding on individuals rights and liberties and maybe he thought that would be a governmental intrusion. i don't know but one of his major concerns was freedom of the press so he would believe very strongly freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
>> you have done your research do you think he might feel a need to find individuals as organic? >> i have no idea. >> i appreciate your research. thank you very much. >> can you tell us the reasons why the brilliant men who love the constitution who knew about the idea of the declaration why did they reject the ideas of the declaration which they eventually agreed to the
ratification requires. >> that's a great question and those at the convention. washington and madison thought the declaration of rights anything that referred back and we don't need a document to say individual liberty they believed it was her peripheral lesson they disagreed. attended to the constitution and enumerated in the bill of rights or a jury trial or to a free press washington madison
thought that was a perfect list and inherent of the constitution. >> you may have hinted at the answer just now but in virginia politics at the time was mason more closely aligned with jefferson and madison are patrick henry? >> he was a colleague of patrick henry of the convention to get bill of rights to the new constitution. he was a mentor to jefferson and a political ally of patrick henry at the ratifying convention and in fact he was
one of the most vociferous objectors to the constitution. >> so those votes were defeatin defeating. >> in the bill of rights so that was is on that did not divide the process? >> yes there were approximately 24 amendments at the virginia ratifying convention that was sent to congress james madison actually giving him credit edited these amendments down
to the modern version of the bill of rights but there were many different going on at the time but nine states have to ratify the constitutional convention so each had their own state of amendments there were approximately 24 coming out of the virginia ratifying commission. but going back again to the major concern was freedom. he thought freedom of the press was fundamental. thank you. >> you mention masons access to the family library. is there any indication as to what political thinkers or philosophers may have impacted his thinking most quick. >> i have one chapter that
does. he wrote extensively that he read all of the english jurists but montesquieu was what he read the most and that gave him the idea of the separation of powers that there should be three branches of government that is why his own colleagues thought he was the most able in virginia because he was so well read in first on all the bill of rights in 1689 and the magna carta and that's why he was a genius because he read the constitutions before.
>> i have a question about the second amendment. >> i am not sure he found those two tied together but one of the basic fundamental differences and one of the reasons he did not sign the constitution was because of the compromise at the constitutional convention and sustain the implication of slavery for the next 20 years. he was voraciously against slavery and wrote about slavery and thought it was the
abomination. but like jefferson, he did not know how to solve the problem of slavery in his lifetime. he basically kicked it down the road to the next generation. but that's one of the main reasons he did not sign it because it sustained the compromise for 20 more years. >> could you please fill us in on his education. did he have a tutor? how old was he when he started collecting books? and also in regards to jefferson his wife died at 39 then how old was he? >> 67 when he died.
he was 15 years older than madison or jefferson at the time for what they had in common was both of their fathers died when they were very young boys at the age of ten. he did not have a mentor so to speak so his uncle had a vast library over 1500 volumes of english law and things like that so he was under the tutelage after his father died in john mercer basically taught him to become a lawyer and a jurist and a scholar that was his main mentor from